In my childhood I imagined being all kinds of things when I grew up:
1.) A lawyer (age 7, because I knew they wore fancy clothes and made a lot of money).
2.) A game show contestant (age 4, I still believe one day I will turn up on Wheel of Fortune).
3.) A musician (age 15, I didn’t quite…
If the wizarding gene is dominant, as J.K. Rowling says in her famous series of Harry Potter books, then how can a wizard be born to muggle parents (non-magical people)? And how can there be squibs (non-magical people born into wizarding lines)?
It seems these baffling genetic questions have finally been answered, thanks to Andrea Klenotiz, a biology student at the University of Delaware.
In a six-page paper, which she sent to Rowling, Klenotiz outlines how the wizarding gene works and even explains why some witches and wizards are more powerful than others.
“Magical ability could be explained by a single autosomal dominant gene if it is caused by an expansion of trinucleotide repeats with non-Mendelian ratios of inheritance,” Klenotiz explains.
What does this mean?
In school we learn the fundamentals of genetics by studying Gregory Mendel’s pea plant experiments and completing basic Punnett squares. Basically, we’re taught that whenever one copy of a gene linked to a dominant trait is present, then the offspring will exhibit that dominant trait, regardless of the other gene.
However, Non-Mendelian genes don’t follow this rule, which is the basis of Klenotiz’s argument. She says that the wizarding gene could be explained if it’s caused by a trinucleotide repeat, which is the repetition of three nucleotides — the building blocks of DNA — multiple times.
These repeats can be found in normal genes, but sometimes many more copies of this repeated code can appear in genes than is standard, causing a mutation. This kind of mutation is responsible for genetic diseases like Huntington’s Disease. Depending upon how many of these repeats occur in the genes, a person could exhibit no symptoms, could have a mild form of the disease or could have a severe form of it.
In her paper, Klenotiz argues that eggs with high levels of these repeats are more likely to be fertilized, a phenomenon known as transmission ratio distortion. She also suggests that the egg or sperm with high levels of repeats is less likely to be created or to survive in the wizarding womb.
This argument answers several questions about wizarding genetics:
How can a wizard be born to muggle parents?
Genetic mutations can randomly appear, meaning anyone could be born with the wizarding gene. However, there’s a better chance of magical offspring occurring if the parents are on the high side of the normal range for mutations.
How can a squib be born to wizard parents?
Although parents with these mutated magical genes would be likely to pass the gene on to their children, there’s still a possibility that any given offspring might not inherit the trinucleotide repeat.
How can varying degrees of magical ability be explained?
The more repeats a wizard inherits, the stronger the magical power he or she will have. If both wizarding parents are powerful wizards, it’s likely their offspring will also be powerful.
You can read Klenotiz’s full paper on wizarding genetics here.
Far and away one of the nerdiest things I’ve ever read. Love it.
A woman with whom I used to work got engaged yesterday. I don’t know her fiancée and I haven’t seen her in a few years (except for Facebook).
They’ve been in a relationship for awhile, so one could presume he knows her better than I do, but I would love to warn him and say, “Run. Run, you fool.”
Because, she was a whiny, spoiled brat when we worked together and, based on her Facebook posts, she hasn’t changed much.
Now, I feel cleansed.
On this particular shooting day of “The Hobbit,” they were shooting a hobbit party on a soundstage: Adults and children dressed as hobbits with rustic clothing, pointy ears, and big, furry feet. Ian McKellen was there in his role as the wizard Gandalf with his beard, robes, and pointy hat. They were all dancing, and laughing, and making merry—you couldn’t ask for a more tinkly-winkly, gumdrop scene.
Also, on this day, another production unit was packing up cameras, lights, swords, armor, etc. in preparation for a location shoot across the country.
Just another day, really, until Peter Jackson parked the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car into his parking space (He’s made a buck or two from this movie business.).
When that happened, EVERYBODY practically stopped what they were doing, flocked to the car and took pictures and posed with this artifact of their childhood.
"Man, I just schlepped a few hundred pounds of swords and shields onto the trucks. I am beat. Hey! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! Cool!"
"It’s been a day gluing hobbit ears onto the extras…..CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG!"
"My 4 year old went into cute overdrive as a little hobbit and it’s probably the most precious thing I will see until my child has a child…CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG!"
I’m not knocking “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” but I think it’s very interesting these people are so immersed in making this beloved story into movies—-movies that will be treasured by fans for years, if not decades—that Fantasy has become a day-to-day thing-old hat. Working somewhere that had shelves of dragon models became YAWWWWWN.
But that’s what we do: We are excited about new opportunities and we WISH we could make a living doing what we loved doing as children and even if we are fortunate enough to do that, we take the wonder of it all for granted. Everything becomes a drudge, if we let it.
I’m glad you took a break from watching a baseball game while pretending to watch your kid’s soccer game to use your phone to update Facebook with this status. World’s #1 Dad?
<sincerity>If you like WhiteWhine, please buy and review the book. It would mean the world to me.</sincerity>